Guilford County, NC - Education is arguably the most important tool children can have to prepare them for life and the workplace.
Back in 2009, nine Guilford County Schools were considered under-performing. Now, the district only has one in that category. In addition, 19 schools now have top honors.
How did this transformation happen? It's not magic. Montlieu Elementary in High Point used to be on the list. Now, it's considered a model school. Last year, more than 450 people visited the school hoping learn something about how teachers incorporate technology into almost every lesson.
Principal Ged O'Donnell said, "If we don't embrace technology, then we've got our heads stuck in the sand." But, it's about more than just technology. O'Donnell added, "I don't know one teacher that goes into the profession to be a bad teacher. Every teacher wants to be a good teacher. It's my responsibility as principal to give that teacher the support they need to make sure they can be the teacher they want to be."
Teacher Adjoa Botwe-Rankin echoed O'Donnell's sentiment. "We have a building full of very good educators. Because we know what needs to be taught, they are very familiar with the standards. The iPad is just a piece. It's just that little piece that fits into the puzzle," she said.
At Montlieu, students walk quietly in the halls. Their shirts are tucked in. And, they're more tech savvy than some adults. The principal demands order and obedience, but also fosters an encouraging environment that rewards positive behavior.
Teacher Noelle Leslie told WFMY News 2, "We're always trying to go to the next level. Six years ago, that wasn't the case. We were ok with where we were. We weren't really data focused like we are now."
Kate Earp, another Montlieu teacher added, "Both of my parents are principals....they are always amazed at what we are doing here."
Changing the culture inside a school can take years. Top Guilford County Schools administrators target "underperforming" schools and attempt to provide as many resources as possible to those schools to turn them around.
Sometimes, the district replaces teachers or principals. Administrators ask key questions about every staff member in the building. Dr. Beth Folger, Chief Academic Officer, said some of those questons include, "Does this person really want to work in a school that has challenges? Is this person really passionate about students and their learning? Is this person part of a culture of, 'We can do it. Let's dig in and get it done?'"
How does your school rank? Check out NC School Report Card for the results.
This presentation outlines numbers for the 2011-2012 school year.
Guilford County Schools now has 19 Honor Schools of Excellence and 27 Schools of Distinction.